Back to Bharati

I was listening to ‘Navarathiri Nayakiar’ – a programme hosted by ‘Podhigai’ TV (Tamil Doordarshan) and Jaya TV in Tamil Nadu. The programmes feature South Indian classical music singers singing kritis (songs) on Devi/Sakthi and her various manifestations. Some singers sung ‘நெஞ்சுக்கு நீதியும் தோளுக்கு வாளும்’ (a song by Subramanya Bharati). Here is that piece. Sung well. The late M. S. Subbalakshmi had sung this beautifully.

The last stanza moved me tremendously. I was chewing on the lines below rather than the food as I sat down to have my lunch today and tears started rolling off my eyes spontaneously.

What a poet! Immense purpose, focus and extraordinary intensity. At one level, it is an enormous tragedy for us that he died young. At another level, it is not surprising. He always prayed for a purposeful and intense life. I think his prayers were answered. He experienced everything that we would never get to do so even if we live for 100 years. He had lived a packed and full life. That is why God took him back early.

Or, as some of my friends would say, his was a soul that had already attained ‘Mukti’ and had come back to the earth voluntarily only to help others and that is why he returned to his original abode quickly, once his purpose was achieved.

The last stanza (from line 2) and my attempt at translating them:

தெள்ளு கலைத்தமிழ் வாணி நினக்கொரு விண்ணப்பம் செய்திடுவேன்
எள்ளத்தனைப்பொழுதும் பயனின்றி இராதென்றன் நாவினிலே
வெள்ளமெனப்பொழிவாய் சக்தி வேல் சக்தி வேல் சக்தி வேல்

To the beautiful Goddess of Tamil (or, Saraswati), I have a plea: pl. flood my tongue so that I do not live a useless life even for a speck of a moment. Sakthi Vel, Sakthi Vel (pray to Murugan).

I wonder if the last line too should be சக்தி ஓம் சக்தி ஓம் சக்தி ஓம் instead of சக்தி வேல் சக்தி வேல் சக்தி வேல். Can any one shed light on this?

Singers sing only stanzas 1, 3 and 5 of this beautiful and powerful (very few of Bharati’s poems are not powerful) poem. Do not know why.

From Hollywood to Cambodia

There has been a long gap since the last post. Wife was travelling. She came back. Then, I went to India. I came back and then there are things to catch up. Navrathiri started. Guest at home.

The point is that one can continue to go through life like this. That is what I am doing and most likely would continue to do so. That is the sort of life that Bharati did not want. Like Bharati, one person decided that he would not do so. Check out his story here. I do not want to say anything more.

Attempt at explaining ‘birthday reminder’

This is an explanation rather than a translation:

He describes an unthinking life where we go through its motions. We work, earn an income, put bread on the table, gossip, fret, feel sad, hurt others, hurt ourselves, grey, grow older with the passage of time and die. We go through all this, unthinkingly. That is the life Bharati finds strange. He calls people who go through such lives strange people (விந்தை மனிதர்கள்).

We can say that he challenges himself and challenges others to dare and think of a life different than this. He dares people to live with full awareness and consciousness. We can also interpret this as his prayer to Sakthi (Devi – Goddess) that she should bless him not to have an unthinking life like the one he describes above.

Birthday reminder

தேடிச்சோறு நிதம் தின்று – பல
சின்னஞ்சிறு கதைகள் பேசி – மனம்
வாடித் துன்பமிக உழன்று – பிறர்
வாடப்பல செயல்கள் செய்து – நரை
கூடிக் கிழப்பருவ மெய்தி – கொடுங்
கூற்றுக் கிரையானப்பின் மாயும் – பல
வேடிக்கை மனிதரைப்போலே – நான்
வீழ்வே னென்று நினைத்தாயோ?


Approximate translation:

Do you think I will succumb and disappear like those ‘strange’ people who

live (and work?) to eat,

engage in small talk/frivolous conversations

feel unhappy and depressed,

cause hurt to others by their various deeds

grey and become old with sheer passage of time

and who passively accept being a prey to their fate or destiny before eventually fading away?


I am not 100% happy with my translation. Comments, corrections and reactions welcome.

(p.s: I corrected the translation above after conversation with two friends over post-lunch dessert today)

Choices and costs

Daughters of a good friend are in Singapore for their summer internship. They visited us for dinner recently. The elder one displayed a remarkable clarity of mind that is worth sharing and emulating. She went and did a 10-month course cum stint in France. Chose to stay in a hostel only with other French students, despite not knowing any French. She felt that that was the only way she was going to gain rich experiences and insights into another culture and another set of people. She deliberately avoided the comfort of being with fellow Indians.  That is her advice to others going overseas too. When asked if it was not very difficult, she said that she knew it would be and that one should be prepared not only to make conscious choices but willingly accept the costs that come with it. Bravo!

Ugly Indian

My wife is in Bengaluru for few days for assorted reasons. She sent an email to ‘Ugly Indian’ seeking a meeting. ‘He’/’she’ refused. They want to remain anonymous. They even asked her if she would be willing to take up the cleaning of ‘Little India’ in Singapore!  Any volunteers?

They are doing a marvellous job of cleaning up spots in Bengaluru with citizen participation. They want no credit. They want the work to speak for itself and speak, it does!

They have taken the name, ‘Ugly Indian’ presumably because a cover story in “India Today’  years ago wrote about the ‘Ugly Indian’ and asked readers to look into mirrors. They hope to erase the ‘Ugly Indian’ tag on all Indians with their self-less (ego-less) work.

Their videos are available on YouTube and they are on Facebook too.


Was listening to the lectures of Raa. Selva Ganapathy on Thirumoolar and Thirumanthiram thanks to the CDs gifted by a very good friend some years ago. As Thirumoolar stands on the banks of Cauvery after finishing his darshan at Chidambaram (he is on his way to Podhigai Hills to meet his old friend Agastiyar), Sekkizhar describes Cauvery thus:

A river that gives all her water away to villages, fields and people on her way to the ocean and merges into the sea with ‘nothing’ because she does not want to give any fresh water to the sea that gave the venom to her Lord,  Sivaperuman!


(p.s: Karnataka State will observe a day’s bandh on October 6th to protest against the Central Tribunal order on the release of water to Tamil Nadu!)